How to excel in performance reviews when you work in banking

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Performance review banking

It's the beginning of the year, and you're ready to smash 2019. You may have had your performance review for last year already, or it may be coming in the next few weeks. If it's the latter, you need to work-it. I've worked in this industry for over two decades and I know how important performance reviews are. The executive coach Mary-Louise Angoujard, who works with bankers, has the following tips...

1. Keep a monthly tally of your key wins and accomplishments  

Before your midyear review write a summary to help you navigate the conversation with your boss. Be sure to include dates, dollars associated with key wins, and any cross-divisional business you helped generate that was beyond your normal duties.  If you're in a client-facing role, keep a few examples of positive feedback from clients. This sounds counter-intuitive, but keep track of your failures too. Your self-assessment will most definitely ask for places where you think you could perform better. If you’ve been tracking wins and losses, then there should be very little room to be sideswiped in the review meeting with your boss.

2. Cultivate strong senior relationships across divisions, and tap into these for your 360 evaluation.

Most banks use the 360-degree feedback process as a key element in the year-end annual review.  Time was, you could put your mates down on the list to provide your online 360 review, but nowadays most of the time your boss asks you to provide a list of sources from multiple contacts and he/she chooses who submits your review.

3. Manage the curve 

Although hopelessly antiquated, many banks continue to hold bosses to distributing the "exceeds", "meets", and "meets most” and “does not meet” rankings based on the bell curve distribution. The theory of a bell curve is that most people are average, with a small percentage at the top being top performers and a small percentage at the bottom being losers.  Some banks still force the bottom 10% to get a low rating, thereby ensuring there are always some "losers" in the group.

This means that even if your team consists of all high performers, someone will still fall to the bottom. Don't be a “sleeper,” says Angoujard.  People who are quietly doing their job tend to be overlooked or are easy targets for being managed down the curve.  If you’ve made key wins, don’t be afraid to mention them to your boss and team (although not too often).

4. Address your career path

Your boss is most likely managing multiple reviews, as well as prepping for his/her own, so if you have career aspirations (and if you’re in banking then you probably do) it is important to clearly communicate these in the review. Go into the reviews with your career progression in mind and concrete steps for getting there.  Angoujard says you need to, “have a clear proposition and rationale for your continued progression, including the support you may need: for example, introductions, financial contributions for additional training or qualifications, sponsorship for special projects. Be ready to present this confidently, also highlighting the benefits to your organization”.

5. De-stress heading into the meeting

No one is perfect. There’s a decent chance your performance review will include some negative feedback. It’s important that you listen to this with an open mind, not become defensive and not get upset. After all, negative feedback is a show of faith from your boss – if he/she thought you were a lost cause, you’d be out.  It’s important not to sound defensive or argumentative. Bosses are human beings and will not take kindly to being screamed at (probably the easiest way for a top performer to receive a "meets expectations”).

Natalie Stpierre is a pseudonym

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available. Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

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